Election watch: Left-wing unity versus right-wing rhetoric

With half the population fleeing south for a bit of sunshine, election fever is not about to break out in the soggy Netherlands. The election videos keep trickling in however; the latest offering coming from the PVV.

The PVV video is what we have come to expect. ‘These elections are about Europe,’ Wilders says trying to look persuasive. Cue megalomaniacal choir music, big, expensive buildings in Brussels, lots of flags. A child could get the message: ‘All this European frippery is making the Netherlands poor and if we didn’t have to spend all that money, we would be fine and prosperous.’

The election may be about Europe but what Wilders is mainly about in his election video is giving Mark Rutte, who is doing well in the polls, a poke in the eye. Famously (or notoriously, depending on your point of view) Europe-cautious Rutte is being portrayed as an out-and-out Europhile who will happily sign any blank check put in front of him by grinning Eurocrats.

Cue Rutte signing something to the background clatter of coins falling, presumably, into a Binnenhof drain. Cue Wilders, who says ‘there goes another billion’.

Kitchen cabinet

The VVD hasn’t launched its video yet. Perhaps they were waiting for the PVV, or maybe they are still racking their brains about what to put in it.

Rutte having breakfast in a kitchen, like Samsom and Van Haersma Buma, is out. In his case, a kitchen (possibly with a couple of empty pizza cartons sticking out of the bin) would only say bachelor, no kids, what does he know and that would not be the right message at all.

Maybe he will be provoked into a personal attack on Wilders. He could show the PVV leader with a bucket and spade, piling sand on top of the dykes and taking swipes at anyone trying to get in. But he won’t. And anyway, who’d be interested? It’s holiday time and Spain, Portugal and Italy are beckoning. We’re going to be spending lots of money there. Not even Geert Wilders can do anything about that.


Meanwhile, if former Labour leader Job Cohen gets his way we won’t have to bother with dozens of election videos in the future because the left-wing parties would merge and make one, presumably quite long, election video.

New party name: the Big Left, slogan: we’re all in this together, party symbol: a phoenix. It would never get off the ground. The phoenix would rapidly become a dead duck, as MPs try to define ‘left’.

The leaders of GroenLinks, Labour and the Socialist Party know this. They would rather stay with their own little group and not venture into the big, unified unknown. A bit like Wilders and Europe, really.

Of course, the commentators are already falling over themselves to fit together the puzzle that will be the next coalition. In the pages of the Volkskrant, former Labour leader Wouter Bos proposed a broad-based cabinet, putting all ideological differences to one side in the interest of the country.

And besides, there wasn’t that much to choose between the Christian Democrats and Labour anyway, he said.

Financial matters

Perhaps the CPB has something to say about that? Most parties, albeit grudgingly, use the services of the government macro-economic forecaster CPB to have a look at their manifestos. The CPB gets out its pocket calculator and goes through the financial consequences of whatever the parties are promising.

It then says ‘not good enough’, ‘no’, ‘ok’ or ‘could try harder’. The Netherlands is, apparently, the only country where manifestos are under such scrutiny.

Not all parties agree with the CPB methods, writes the NRC this week. The Socialist Party, for instance, thinks the CPB should regard investment in healthcare and education as a strengthening of the economy but the number crunchers only see expense.

Nevertheless, the pro-animal Partij van de Dieren is the only party to have opted out of the ‘number circus’, as the paper calls it. Animal welfare has no price. The CPB will present the outcome of its calculations on August 27.

Election watch is a weekly column compiled by DutchNews.nl staff.


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